A Peak Into the Guts of an iPhone

This post is a two-parter, the first part will be sharing an overview as to what the internal components of an iPhone look like, as well as some helpful tips and tricks you might not have known about. The second part will be a section concerning Apple's approach to repair in the design of their devices. Let's get to it! There is probably no phone more ubiquitous, more recognizable, than the iPhone. The overall style has not changed much since the iPhone 5 (with the new iPhone 12 throwing back to the sleek metal sides). Nevertheless, there are some things that you perhaps haven't noticed on your iPhone.

If your iPhone does not have a glass back, it won't have these markings. In the red is the model number. Within one family of iPhones, there can be multiple model numbers. For example, shutter sounds cannot be turned off with the Korean/Japanese version of the iPhone, in line with laws in those country. The yellow number indicates the IMEI, or the serial number used by carrier companies to identify your iPhone. You might be wondering, how do I see my serial number on my newer iPhone that isn't functioning?


In the tiniest print known to humankind, it is written on the SIM tray itself! Newer iPhones feature a rubber grommet to ensure some amount of water resistance. While Apple states their devices to be waterproof to certain distances, this generally applies to devices out of the factory. The seals tend to weaken with time after humidity, sweat, and all manner of accidents happen to them.

But now, we get to the main event, the infamous iPhone!

Here we see the remains of an iPhone 6 Plus. While it is still in working order, it has been retired to a tester device - sacrificing its life for the betterment of other iPhone 6 Pluses. Even in modern iPhones, the battery takes up most of the real estate inside of the device, with pull-tabs on the bottom for removal. The motherboard, by comparison, takes up very little - but is very dense. Each connector makes up 10s of pins each one having specific power draws and readings. It can be seen that the iPhone is designed a bit like a lasagna, some cables are layered on top of other parts, making certain repairs trivial (such as cameras or the loudspeaker) while making other common repairs potentially arduous or dangerous (such as charging ports or power/volume buttons). Whereas a loudspeaker may take 20 minutes to the well-trained technician, replacing a stuck power button could take upwards of a couple hours from start to finish. iPhone parts are generally serialized, that is to say, each part is assigned a serial number which corresponds to a number that the motherboard remembers. Over time, more and more parts were serialized - and in some cases, the iPhone will alert the user to "unauthorized parts", or even worse, the replaced part won't work at all.

iPhone 6s - start of Touch ID, replacing home button disables Touch ID iPhone 7 - until a few years ago, impossible to replace home button - now won't have touch ID iPhone X- start of Face ID (sensor cannot be replaced, must be moved from old screen). Battery replacement will not report health and give warning iPhone 11 - new screens prompt a warning that "phone screen is not genuine", stays as a red dot in the settings iPhone 12 - rear camera not-replaceable. Even replacing with a camera from another iPhone 12 (as opposed to an aftermarket camera) does not work

Especially in places like Manhattan, where the closest Apple Store is 2 hours away, the ability for people to repair their own devices is paramount. We're working hard to make sure that is something available to people. Have a great week, and see you in the next one!


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